If you are really concerned about the economy, the environment, and the poor, stop shopping at Wal-Mart. Too often I hear conservative politicians slingling the sound byte that corporations create jobs and CEOs are society’s most effective job creators. They insinuate that without corporations, our economy would collapse and no one would be able to find a job. But with corporate profits at an all time high and an unemployment rate of nearly seven percent, this theory is inconsistent with reality.
Inconveniently, the Republican politicians in Congress appear to be the most concerned about the national debt under Obama yet still promote the policies of Wal-Mart and other corporations which pay their employees poverty wages. This is especially troublesome because the workers who make minimum wage or slightly above, are taking advantage of food stamps and Medicaid which adds to the national debt.
But how much money are you actually losing when you shop at Wal-Mart? A report from the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce found that a Wal-Mart supercenter based in Wisconsin employing 300 workers could cost taxpayers $904,000 annually. The logic is simple, when low-wage workers can’t afford basic health care or food, the taxpayers pick up the tab.
So when the Republicans talk about how the hard working Americans shouldn’t have to use their hard-earned tax dollars to pay for the “moochers” of society living comfortably off the government, they are really talking about the people who work hard every day and still cannot make ends meet.
The salary of the average Wal-Mart employee is $8.89 an hour. If that worker works 10 hours per day and 7 days per week for 52 weeks a year, his/her salary would be $32,359.60 which is less than the estimated $44, 952 that it takes to raise a family on one income with a child in my town of Hightstown, NJ. Even worse, Wal-Mart pays their cashiers even less at $8.49 an hour.
A common Republican rebuttal is that most people on minimum wage are teenagers who aren’t supporting a family and therefore raising wages will do next to nothing for middle class families. Unfortunately for that argument, the average age of a minimum wage employee is 29. The fact of the matter is that the minimum wage jobs have now become the means by which people support their families.
Another frequent argument is if Democrats want to raise the minimum wage to fifteen dollars, why not raise it to 50 or 100 dollars and hour. The simple answer is that it would be unreasonable for the cashier at Wal-Mart to be a millionaire. However, it is just as unreasonable for a minimum wage employee to rely on food stamps and government assistance to put food on the table.
I understand and can relate to the convenience factor that Wal-Mart and other corporations bring. So this article wouldn’t be complete without suggestions on where to “shop your interests” while also shopping for groceries. Costco is a great option because it’s employees make an average of $17 an hour and receive better-than-average benefits including health care coverage to over 90 percent of it’s workforce.
The most powerful way someone can make a difference these days is deciding where to spend their money. By shopping at Wal-Mart you involuntarily add to the tax dollars you will pay that year. This is counter-intuitive because Wal-Mart is known for it’s astonishingly low prices compared to other retailers. But by saving a dollar or two on a six pack of soda or a gallon of milk, you support a company that is most responsible for the plight of it’s workers and the American economy. And you, you are imperative to it’s success.